Alonso could only wait and watch as Mathieu Serradori beat him to the win on Stage 8 of the Dakar Rally.
The double World Champion was two minutes ahead of the chasing pack from Wadi Al Dawasir to Wadi Al Dawasir only for Serradori to come through four minutes faster.
Neither the bikes nor quads ran on Monday following the death of Paulo Gonçalves.
Racing from Wadi Al Dawasir to Wadi Al Dawasir over 477ms of dunes and canyons, double F1 World Champion Alonso, competing in his first-ever Dakar, set the pace.
The Spaniard, driving a Toyota Hilux, was sitting top of the pile at the end of the stage with only Serradori still in the hunt.
The Frenchman took 3h48m to complete the stage, beating Alonso by 4m04.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Serradori. “It’s a wonderful story. Yesterday’s stage was very complicated – we made a mistake and paid a heavy price. This morning, we pulled our socks up and left everyone behind us.
“I’d like to dedicate this victory to Paulo because I’m a former biker. It’s not easy to get motivated after a day like that and my co-pilot Fabien was there as well. But there are two fighters in the car and I’m very happy with this result.”
Giniel de Villiers was fourth quickest in his Toyota Hilux while Dakar leader Carlos Sainz opened the stage on Monday and almost immediately began to lose time.
He was overhauled on the stage by Nasser Al-Attiyah and Stéphane Peterhansel with defending champion reducing Sainz’s overall to 6m40.
South Africa’s De Villiers remains sixth overall, his deficit to Sainz reduced to 53m12.
Yasir Seaidan lost time when he got his Mini stuck in the sand.
CLARK AND NASIR ARE STUNED BY THE CARLOS GHOSN ESCAPE STORY AND, THIS WEEKS PODCAST BRINGS YOU A GREAT INTERVIEW WITH AUDI SPORT FACTORY DRIVER LOIC DUVAL
NEWS ON DAKAR RALLY STAGE 4…PETERHANSEL WINS STAGE, ALONSO UP TO 20TH
Stephane Peterhansel, known as Mr.Dakar for his 13 wins over the years, overcame the challenges of taking English instructions from Portuguese notes man Paulo Fiuza and a tough couple of days in the office, to move his Mini buggy into the lead midway through the day’s stage.
He then stormed to a powerful Day 4 win over 2019 Dakar winner Nasser Al Attiyah’s Gazoo Toyota Hilux and double world Dakar champion Carlos Sainz in another Mini buggy.
The rally legend emerged unscathed from the dangerous fourth stage, conceding a mere seven minutes to stage winner Peterhansel despite having to open the special. The Spaniard still leads the general classification by three minutes over Al-Attiyah.
Sainz said of his day, “The last 100 kilometres were the toughest sector I’ve ever faced in the Dakar. It was insane. There were rocks all over the place and I could not see the tracks, it was devilish. At times like these, making it to the finish without running into trouble already feels like a win.
SAINZ TAKES THE LEAD ALONSO IMPRESSES IN STAGE THREE
Two-time winner Carlos Sainz became the third new leader of the Dakar Rally after winning the third stage ahead of defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah on Tuesday. Sainz and Al-Attiyah vied for the lead throughout the 427-kilometer loop out from and back to Neom near Saudi Arabia’s northern border with Jordan.
Sainz prevailed after nearly four hours, beating Al-Attiyah by 3 1/2 minutes on a course with a fast first half and mountainous second.
Jakub Przygonski, who endured six hours of mechanical problems on the first stage, was third. Former Formula One driver Fernando Alonso was fifth.
Overnight leader Orlando Terranova was nearly 13 minutes behind Sainz on the stage and dropped to third overall, eight minutes back.
Sainz led Al-Attiyah by nearly five minutes overall.
The motorbike standings had to be modified because of GPS problems. Organisers used the times after 389 kilometres.
That reduced Ricky Brabec’s commanding victory from 10 minutes to six over Honda teammates Jose Ignacio Cornejo and Kevin Benavides.
The change also benefited defending champion Toby Price and Xavier de Soultrait. They were originally 35 and 48 minutes off the pace, but that was reduced to 8 1/2 and nearly 14 and they stayed in the top eight.
Brabec took over the lead in the general standings, nearly five minutes ahead of Benavides. Matthias Walkner was third.
Price was less than 12 minutes back. Ross Branch, the winner of stage two, slammed his back wheel into a rock while taking a corner too wide after 88 kilometres and fell and hurt his shoulder.
He finished, though, unlike others who crashed and had to withdraw, including Guillaume Cholet, Adrien van Beveren, Olaf Harmsen, and Martien Jimmink.
De Soultrait also fell but finished with a tourniquet on his bleeding right arm.
MINI LEADS SECOND STAGE ALONSO LOOSES TWO HOURS WITH SUSPENSION DAMAGE…
Alonso was close to the frontrunners’ pace over the first 160 kilometres of the test, but his Toyota Hilux was then halted after an impact with a rock that left it with wheel and suspension damage.
Alonso and co-driver Marc Coma attempted repairs on the spot and ultimately resumed the stage after giving up just over two hours.
The Al Wajh – Neom stage, featuring 367 kilometres of timed competition, is the first of six in this year’s Dakar for which the roadbook is made available to crews minutes before the start, as opposed to the afternoon of the prior day
Much of the day’s proceedings were dominated by local hero Yazeed Al Rajhi, who led at each of the first five waypoints and was up by over six minutes after 250 kilometres, making up for the time losses incurred in an early detour on Sunday.
Al-Rajhi’s bid for stage victory and the overall lead fell apart in the very end, however, as he ceded over 20 minutes to fellow Toyota driver Giniel de Villiers, who ended the day as the pace-setter.
However, de Villiers’ opening stage travails mean he is only sixth in the general classification after two days, and trails Terranova by 12 minutes.
The Argentine, in a four-wheel-drive Mini John Cooper Works Rally, was second fastest on the day, while Khalid Al Qassimi in a privateer Peugeot and Mathieu Serradori in a Century buggy made it four different cars in the top four in the stage rankings.
The marathon’s two most recent champions, Mini buggy driver Carlos Sainz and Toyota’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, both surrendered over 10 minutes on Monday but are in the top three in the overall classification, with Serradori a surprise fourth.
MINI DRIVER ZALA CLAIMS MAIDEN SHOCK WIN FERNANDO ALONSO 11TH
Toyota’s defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah led the way for most of the 319km timed special on the coastal stage from Jeddah to Al Wajh that kicked off the first ever Saudi Arabia-based Dakar.
But the Qatari suffered three punctures late on, paving the way for an upset.
With the X-raid Mini buggies of past rally winners Stephane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz Sr having both lost several minutes early on, the privateer Peugeot of Khalid Al Qassimi and Zala’s Mini assumed the leading positions heading into the final stretch of the test.
And though former World Rally Championship regular Al Qassimi suffered a late setback and lost over a quarter of an hour, Zala held firm to clinch the stage win by two minutes over Peterhansel.
The Lithuanian, who is part of the Agrorodeo outfit and has switched to a Mini ALL4 Racing after finishing 12th overall in a Toyota last year, thus became the first driver to win a Dakar stage in a four-wheel-drive Mini since Mikko Hirvonen in 2016.
Sainz made it a Mini 1-2-3 behind Zala and Peterhansel, while Al-Attiyah mitigated the damage from his late-stage travails in fourth place, 5m33s off the pace.
Bernhard ten Brinke was Al-Attiyah’s next best Toyota squadmate, finishing a minute behind in fifth and followed by the other big surprise in the top 10 – Mathieu Serradori in a South African-developed Century CR6 buggy.
azeed Al Rajhi began his first home Dakar with eighth place in his Overdrive Toyota, but more or less matched the leaders’ pace after losing time in the early kilometres.
Alonso in 11th was 15 minutes and 27 seconds off the pace set by the leader in his first-ever Dakar stage.
It proved a tougher day for past Dakar winners Giniel de Villiers and Nani Roma, with both the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver – who finished with a slow puncture – and the new Borgward recruit losing more than 20 minutes.
Two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Romain Dumas, who had previous outings in a privateer Peugeot, took the start in a DXX buggy developed by his RD Limited team.
But the factory Porsche GT racer dropped out just over 65km into the event as his car caught fire and he was forced to climb out.
The other DXX, campaigned under the Rebellion banner by the LMP1 team’s owner Alexandre Pesci, remains in the race.
F1WEEKLY’S EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ERIC BOULLIER AT THE 2019 ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX.
Bag of experience. Eric Boullier packs a lot of winning experience in team and driver management. He is now involved in the promotion of the French Grand Prix.
Q. French GP history goes back to 1906. Is Paul Ricard the long-term future of this event?
A. “Yes, 1906 was the first French Grand Prix near Le Mans if I remember. Paul Ricard is now the track hosting French Grand Prix; we still have a contract running for another three years. Anything is possible after that.”
Q. Are you happy with the attendance and corporate support at this time?
A. “Yes. We always want more. The Grand Prix was an amazing success for the return. The second year is always more difficult for a Grand Prix.”
Q. Your educational background is aerospace engineering, how did you get the racing bug?
A. “You were talking about 1906 Le Mans, well I was born near Le Mans in a city called Laval. When I was 9 years old, I was racing with some remote-control cars, and this is how I started.”
Q. Ron Dennis once described F1 as a piranha pool. In terms of politics and cut throat nature of this business, do you really need to be a mean shark to survive and succeed in F1?
A. “I think any business is a piranha pool. I think Formula 1 obviously has a lot of egos and lots of attention. You put ten of the most competitive racing competitors in the same area so they obviously are very close to each other and they do tend to develop ego or whatever it is called, may be some of them with a piranha behavior.”
Q. Eddie Jordan once said ‘egos in Formula 1 are so big you can float the Titanic on it’, is that true?
A. “I do tend to agree with Eddie for once.”
Q.Your time at McLaren, in your observation what were the main issues there apart from Honda getting all the blame?
A. “I don’t think it’s true to say that. You know it’s a long story in the past and I’m not sure if I want to develop that story. It was great years for me, it’s a great bunch of people. And I have many friends there. So, I think past is the past and let’s move forward.”
Q. Did anybody from Honda say anything to McLaren management when Alonso was very vocal about their product, especially after the GP2 engine comment at Suzuka?
A. “I can’t comment about the past. I don’t want to say anything about this. It’s a past story. We have to move on.”
Q.You were involved with Gravity Management, of all the drivers managed by Gravity who were the best?
A. “I will say one who has been winning since then. I remember Marco Wittmann. He has been double DTM Champion. He’s a good driver. And obviously today I am proud to see Romain still in Formula 1, and Esteban Ocon in Formula 1 having a great career. I was the one picking up Esteban when he was 12-years old and I still remember that interview with him. To see him today in the F1 paddock being a mature and professional F1 driver is happiness and pride.”
Q. Esteban Ocon is a great talent and product of French Racing system, how do you rate him and how will he do against Ricciardo?
A. “I do rate him very high obviously. He’s the future for France definitely. I do rate him very high. He will match performance with Daniel. He’s now very much matured and comfortable with his F1 life. He grew up now in the best team environment. He has been in best days with Force India, Racing Point now. He spent few years with Mercedes GP which is the best team organization today. And he’s joining a car manufacturer Renault which is the best place to be when you are an F1 driver, so he will do very well.”
Q. Kimi Raikkonen was racing for you when he made that famous comment ‘leave me alone. I know what I am doing’. Is he the most unique driver you have ever dealt with?
A. “They are all unique. Kimi is a special character, may be a bit different, everyone is fond of him, but they are all unique and I have been lucky enough to work with guys like Robert Kubica, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button. Also, Romain Grosjean, Bruno Senna and some others.”
Q. What would be the main reasons for an F1 fan to attend the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard?
A. “There are many reasons. First, it’s a summer race we call it. Everybody in the world knows the French Riviera. And I am pretty sure everybody wants, at least once in their life, spend holidays there. That’s a good opportunity already to do it. To be fair, being at the end of June, just before summer, it’s a great place to enjoy the French hospitality. We have a lot of activities.
“We are one of the new grand prix models for Liberty. Our paddock is full of activities, exhibition shows, but also on track, off track and you can really enjoy a great weekend.”
— Nasir Hameed
Special thanks to Pierre Guyonnet-Duperat for arranging this interview.